Systems theory tells us that in order to solve a problem we have to use the right set of assumptions. Further, it tells us that if we use the wrong assumptions, the problem will continue to get worse. Suffice it to say, the underlying assumptions of those suffering with eating disorders are incorrect. One good example is the role that body dysmorphia plays in driving disordered eating – Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is not the same thing. I should point out that not all individuals that suffer from Anorexia suffer from body dysmorphia, but many do.
The underlying assumptions of those Anorexics suffering from body dysmorphia include:
- Imagined defects in appearance. “My thighs are fat.” Or “My belly sticks out too much.” (In an individual weighing 70 pounds)
- Preoccupation with weight - I weigh too much. I would be more attractive if I lost weight. No one can respect me if my weight goes over 100 pounds.
- Obsessive compulsive behavioral patterns – “I must try on every pair of jeans to make sure that they still fit.”
- Social Isolation – “I know when they look at me, they think I’m fat. It’s better if I just avoid them.”
Obviously these are all incorrect underlying assumptions that will drive more disordered eating. If you have had a patient or a family member with anorexia, then you probably know how useless it is to try and convince the sufferer that the assumptions are wrong. They will assume that you are trying to fool them or trick them into changing so that they will be “fat” like you. I find that it works better to focus upon behavior and the medical necessity of eating. It also helps if they have people depending upon them to be well. Family support, instead of judgment is critical.
On my blogtalk radio show The Eating Disorder Pro, which airs every Wednesday at 7:30 pm EST and comes to you from Cincinnati, Ohio, my guest Brian Cuban, talked about his book Shattered Image. On December 11, Mr. Cuban will describe what it is like to suffer from BDD from the male perspective. His experiences, especially his recovery is inspirational, so be sure to tune in if you are traveling that road yourself. What was so interesting is the fact that his false underlying assumptions were not very different from what we think of as a female perspective when it comes to body image. Like many people with eating disorders, he had some pretty painful experiences as a child, not the least of which was a weight problem along with a mom that fat-shamed him. Ouch! He was also the victim of bullying. Obviously, this was a recipe for disaster.
Check out Brian Cuban’s book to get a good sense of the incorrect underlying assumptions and how he eventually dismantled them for his own recovery. Be sure to tune in on WEDNESDAY December 11 at 7:30 pm.
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